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Modern Times (16th - 19th centuries)

Drawing of Osaka Castle

■The Construction of Osaka Castle

 Oda Nobunaga started to integrate the country during the Warring States period, and in 1576, he built Azuchi Castle in Omi (Shiga Prefecture). It is said that this citadel had a seven-storied castle tower with five layers, pioneering the transition from the mountain castles common in the Middle Ages to castles built on hills near flat land during the modern times, but, after the Incident at Honnōji, where Nobunaga was forced to set Honnōji Temple on fire and commit suicide, Azuchi Castle was burned down during the war.
 Toyotomi Hideyoshi continued the integration of Japan after the death of Oda Nobunaga, and in 1583, he built a huge castle in Osaka as an ostentatious display of his political and military power, located at a site that was the remains of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple (Osaka Prefecture). Covering a total area of 3.3 K㎡ and with a circumference of 12.7 km, it took three years to complete the construction of this imposing citadel. Along with the construction of the castle proper, development of the castle town proceeded, forming the foundation for present day Osaka. Townsmen moved to Osaka from Sakai City, etc. and business prospered, spurring the development of the city and giving birth to many business magnates.

Himeji Castle

■The Castle Towns in the Edo Period

 After Toyotomi Hideyoshi died due to illness in 1598, the struggle for supremacy between the feudal lords divided the whole country into a war split between two sides. After the battle at Sekigahara in 1600 AD, Tokugawa Ieyasu consolidated power in 1603, forming the Edo shogunate (Tokyo). The following period of over 260 years until the Meiji restoration is known as the Edo Period, and the Tokugawa shogunate was in direct control of about one fourth of the country, including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo and Otsu. The shogunate dispensed fiefs to the various feudal lords, where they built castles and castle towns, which they used as bases to govern their respective domains.
 A good example of a castle town would be the Kishu domain (Wakayama City). Tokugawa Ieyasu's son Yorinobu was allotted this fief, which produced 555,000 koku of rice a year (1 koku = 180 liters), a very high amount at the time. Tokugawa shoguns held the fief in succession, such as the 8th shogun Yoshimune and the 14th shogun Iemochi.
 There are other well-known cases where the Tokugawa shogunate allotted fiefs due to distinguished service after the Battle of Sekigahara, such as the Himeji fief, given to Ikeda Terumasa, who spent ten years on expansions works on Himeji Castle (Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture) and the Hikone fief, given to Ii Naomasa (Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture). Different from towns under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogunate with castle representatives or government officials, these castle towns developed with a unique atmosphere and culture.

Illustration of a Higaki Shinmenbansen cotton coastal boat setting sail at Kawaguchi

■Osaka - The Nation's Kitchen

 During the Edo Period, when Edo (Tokyo) was the seat of government, the city was called "The Shogun's Backyard," Kyoto was known as "the Millenary Capital," and Osaka was called "The Nation's Kitchen," in homage to its economic influence. In 1615, The Tokugawa shogunate defeated the forces led by Toyotomi and a large part of Osaka was destroyed in the series of battles, known collectively as the summer Siege of Osaka, or the Osaka Natsu no Jin. Thereafter, many townsmen moved to Osaka, and a canal was constructed to transport goods on the waterway. The city became famous for its waterway transportation system and even today it is known as the "The City of Water." Furthermore, the city had marine transportation connections with Hokkaido and the various cities on the coast of the Sea of Japan, employing boats known as the Kitamaebune, which transported rice and other products to and from various destinations, and this distribution system contributed to the formation of the infrastructure required for a prosperous commercial city.
 Furthermore, the leading wholesale dealers and brokers in Osaka were protected and granted a variety of privileges. As a matter of the shogunate's policies, warehouses combined with sales offices called kurayashiki were constructed in Osaka for the various fiefs controlled by the shogunate, including those in Kyushu, the western part of Japan, and even fiefs as far away as the Hokuriku (Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui and Niigata Prefectures) and Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Aomori, Yamagata, and Akita Prefectures) regions. These warehouses were used for business activities related to the rice collected as land tax and other special products from the various districts. During the Tenpo period from 1830 through 1843, the number of kurayashiki in Osaka rose to 124.
 This economic development in Osaka lead to the birth of the rice market at Dojima, the fruit and vegetable market at Temma, and the fish market at Zakoba, the three largest markets in the city, and the market price of the rice market in Osaka was so powerful that it affected the price of rice nationwide. Thus, the power of the merchants grew until they were even able to challenge the dominating samurai class, shaking the foundations of the Edo shogunate.

Illustration of the bustling Sesshu Kobe Western Harbor Settlement

■From Isolation to the Opening of Japan

  One of the characteristic features of the Edo Period was the isolation policy of the Edo shogunate. The spread of Christianity, which was inconsistent with the feudalistic rule, and affluence reached by the southwest fiefs through foreign trade caused fear in the shogunate, and in 1639 the shogunate implemented a closed-door policy, limiting foreign markets in Japan to Dejima in Nagasaki and the countries allowed to participate to Holland and China. Thus, Japan was isolated from the rest of the world and only fragmented information on the state of affairs in other countries was available. However, communications continued with Korea, and when the leader of the shogunate changed, an ambassador came to Japan from Korea. This cordial relationship continued for more than 200 years. In the 1800s, along with the approach of world powers, like England and Russia, etc, disputes occurred frequently. American naval commander Matthew Calbraith Perry arrived with a fleet at Uraga in Kanagawa. The following year, in 1854, The Empire of Japan formed a treaty known as the Convention of Kanagawa and in 1858, treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States of America, which opened the port of Shimoda (Shizuoka) and others to trade. In 1868, the ports at Osaka and Hyogo in Kansai were opened along with five other Japanese ports, marking the entrance into the modern world and setting the cornerstone for the development of Kansai into an international district. Along with the breakdown of the isolation policy, the ruling system of the Edo shogunate was rudely shaken.

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